Andrew Sharp, Balham, 30 November 2012.
I want to take you back in time and place and to make as little reference as I can to where we are sitting now or how we have come to talk about those past times and places. I hope questions about those things will be asked when I have finished.
My aim is to point out a way of understanding the history of opinion in New South Wales and New Zealand from 1817 to 1823, one of the recurring periods of crisis in the life of the Rev. Samuel Marsden of Parramatta, New South Wales. These understandings will not be fully analysed either, and many questions will also remain to be asked of them.
The history I have in mind is not an obvious or simple one because it can be shared only by those who are prepared to put themselves in Marsden’s position, which was institutionally complex. This was the one big fact on which his life and works depended, including the many and painful conflicts he had to endure.
For the whole of the period he was the Principal Chaplain of New South Wales as well as the sole priest of St. John’s, his local church. He was also the Agent for two Missionary Societies. One was the inter-denominational protestant London Missionary Society which operated mainly in the Society Islands; the other was the Church of England Church Missionary Society with its settlements in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Marsden had more obviously secular responsibilities too.
At the beginning and at the end of the period he was a magistrate in Parramatta, appointed first by Governor Lauchlan Macquarie and then Sir Thomas Brisbane. It was a time-consuming task, and required of him among other things that he decide on corporal punishment to the guilty among the sometimes unruly convict population of the town and the surrounding region. On top of that he owned extensive landed property and was an energetic and ‘improving’ agriculturalist and pastoralist. Finally, he was a loving and authoritative father of five daughters, the loving and less authoritative father of one son, and was the husband of Elizabeth, his wife since 1793 who had been somewhat crippled by a stroke in 1811.
Because of the wide range of his activities he had to strike an extensive range of balances among his duties, even though he was aided by many servants—both convict and free. His eldest daughter described him as ‘always in a bustle’. Thomas Kendall, a missionary in New Zealand, thought his many occupations threatened at times to ‘overwhelm’ him. John Butler, another missionary, found him so thoughtless and incompetent as to write in his journal which he duly sent to the CMS in London: ‘I would sooner sweep the cross- ways of London streets, and beg my bread from door to door, and from passersby, than be under him as agent’.
Not least of the balances he had to strike was that between his work in New South Wales and New Zealand.
In mainland New South Wales he worked among a population predominantly made up of convicts together with poor freed labourers and artisans. In 1819, of a population of 26,000, 10,500 were convicts and their families, 14,000 were freed convicts, and 1,200 came over free. They were dominated by a small layer of quasi-gentry made up of about 50 rich merchants and landowners, plus 80 or so military officers and 130 civil officers, all more or less controlled by Governor Macquarie and his personal entourage.
It was not a very respectable place. In his worst moments Marsden thought the whole Colony was a mass of sin peopled by infidels in the higher as well as the lower orders. Drinking, fornication and adultery were their ‘besetting’ sins. In the actions of Macquarie’s Secretary, J.T. Campbell, though he was no sinner in those ways, Marsden even saw the hand of the Satan–‘the father of lies’, the ‘great calumniator’, a spirit intent on opposing in New South Wales the name and works of Jesus the saviour of mankind. In 1819 he wrote to the CMS: ‘Never was true religion more abhorred than in this Colony, or vice practised…The clergy have little hope of any reformation amongst the people in such circumstances’. The ‘powers of darkness’ were abroad.
In New Zealand he worked among a people who were only then developing the generic name Māori to apply to themselves. They lived in small family groups in scattered villages, camps and fortified pas. Though they settled for periods near their gardens, they often travelled away on seasonal gathering expeditions, or, less peaceably, in taua: great war parties intent on revenging wrongs, however seemingly trivial the insult to their mana or distant in time the casus belli. When Tukitahua made a map in 1793, he labelled the tribal areas which he identified with the numbers of fighting men they sustained. Their general reputation in England and New South Wales was that they were a strong, brave, treacherous and warlike race of cannibals. Macquarie shared those beliefs like most of his subjects.
It was ridiculous to consider it possible to civilise them. Marsden, quite anti-typically, saw the New Zealanders more favourably. He thought of them as a ‘noble race’, capable both of civilisation and christianity. They were not only strong and courageous; they were highly intelligent, commercially-minded, lovers of just dealing and of their kin. But for the time being they were subject to the government of Satan, the ‘Prince of Darkness’; and so they were cannibals and slave-holders, and were capable under the influence of their dark passions of sudden and murderous violence. Only in the Last Days of the world would these and other heathen be brought to see the Light of the Gospel. Those Days, however, would come and God would choose a people from among them.
Each institutional position Marsden filled naturally brought with it its own requirements, and–as will emerge–secreted its own deeper and demanding morality. These demands and moralities conflicted; and the understanding of the past I shall present is one that seeks to describe and account for the ways the clashes were felt at the time by those who lived through them.
Marsden as the Principal Chaplain of the Colony was commissioned by the Secretary of the Colonial Office in Downing Street and was placed by him under the control of the Governor of New South Wales. His functions were (according to Macquarie) to preach order and obedience among the populace, to retail government commands from his pulpit and to set a good personal example of obedience to the Governor. He was also to act as a conduit of command flowing from Macquarie to the handful of chaplains in the territory, and of opinion from the chaplains to the governor. Marsden may have thought he should have some authority over the other chaplains and authority with the Governor, but he had very little of either. The Governor was effective head of the church.
Marsden also had his role as a priest in his proto-parish with brought a further range of duties. He had been ordained by a bishop to administer the rites and ceremonies of the Anglican church according to the orders prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. He must preach to and mentor his congregation, teach the children, comfort the afflicted, and admonish the sinner.
Finally, as an evangelical minister (which only a minority of priests were) Marsden further considered it his duty to arouse in his hearers a sense of their sinfulness and to bring them to repentance and conversion to new men and women. They would be among the chosen few to sit at the right hand of God in Heaven. In New South Wales where the commands of the governor, the duties of priestly station and the calling of the evangelical minister conflicted, it was not always clear exactly to whom or what he owed obedience.
Marsden’s duties as the Agent of the LMS were mainly logistic by 1817. He received missionaries sent from England to New South Wales and attended to their needs and expenses while they were in the Colony. He then arranged for their transport to Tahiti and supplied them with necessities, often in his brig, the Active, subsidised by the two missionary societies. Both societies regarded themselves as obedient to Christ’s evangelical imperative: ‘go ye into the all world and preach the gospel to every creature’, and in 1816 Marsden had been able to rejoice that the heathen in the islands were beginning to convert to new, christian lives. They had heard the Word, put aside their idols–‘the spoils of Satan’s kingdom’– and they would, if kept from idleness, soon join the ranks of the civilised nations.
In New Zealand though, all lay ahead, and Marsden was much more involved setting up and controlling the mission and missionaries as well as providing logistic support. He was supervised at a great distance, and always encouraged and supported by the eminent men of the Committee of the CMS in London. They felt (like Marsden) a tension between their roles in an established church hierarchy administering rites and ceremonies according to accepted church tradition and their urgent and at times supervening mission to save souls. Their men in ‘the field’ must preach and teach. Without that, no individual could be saved. Salvation could only come by a heathen’s or infidel’s hearing the gospel and believing Christ to be the Son of God–an incarnate Spirit who had come as a man into the world to suffer for men and women as the price of redeeming them from the death and punishment due for their sins. Each individual must ‘repent and be baptised’. In baptism each individual must reject the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
The tradition, hierarchy and collective identity of the church thus at times conflicted with the irreducible individualism of the impulse to be a missionary and the missionary’s principal goal of saving individual souls. Missions might be held on behalf of the highly respectable established church and for the salvation of nations; but conversion was the fruit of the zeal of the individual missionary and the conversion of the individual from the Old Adam into a ‘new man’. Zeal might all to easily degenerate into ‘enthusiasm’ and neglect of good order; a ‘new man’ might well think himself free from the constraints of the Old Law of the Ten Commandments, let alone the law of the land. And missionaries in general, according to the less zealous in England, might threaten the good order of the Empire by interfering with the natives’ customs (as in India) or undermining their subjection to their owners (as in the West Indies).
But Marsden, though a zealot, was, like most of those he argued with in New South Wales, one of the Colonial gentry, and highly rspectable. Although he was the son of a weaver and small farmer and had once been a blacksmith’s servant, he was a gentleman by virtue of his later education at Cambridge, his ordination, and religious role in New South Wales as a professional clergyman. He was paid accordingly. In 1819 he received £350 p.a. as the Principal Chaplain. Only five other civil officers received more: The Governor (£2,000), the Judge Advocate (£1,200), the Judge (£800), the Secretary to the Governor (£365) and the Chief Surgeon (£365). He was usually to be found among the great men at hangings, funeral processions, civic celebrations, dinners of the Agricultural Society, lists of benefactors, and so on.
In his additional roles as a magistrate and the holder of extensive agricultural and pastoral lands, Marsden was not only a professional gentleman, but near the top of the social hierarchy of respectability. He might have been there as Principal Chaplain; he might have been there as Agent of the CMS, with its impressive list of patrons and its distinguished governing body; but in any case further accidents of time and place compounded to enhance his respectability and status. In New South Wales as in England, clergy were still routinely given the great burden of administering local justice as J.P.s, and in Marsden’s earlier years before Macquarie they had been always included in the land grants made by Governors to military and civil officers, and to rich immigrants. And so the short, squat, plain-Yorkshire-speaking, bluff and deeply- religious Marsden was to be counted a gentleman on almost all of the criteria imported from England. Still, even in the peculiar status system of NSW, what continued to count against him–alongside his embarrassing religiosity–was his low birth and practical early education. He could sheer and dag a sheep, he could sow and plant, he could teach New Zealanders and Tahitians to work a forge, he could trade and haggle, he did not much care for style in dress, he could walk all day in the bush either side of the Tasman. Even worse for his reputation in New South Wales he drank only moderately, could not stand the race track or sexual gallantry, and he spoke his mind too easily and harshly when he saw his moral and religious code ignored, despised or derided.
For all that, he had many devoted servants on his farms and in his family; he had power and no compunction about judging and commanding; and though he was emotionally volatile and thin-skinned he had the powerful practical intelligence, breadth of vision and circumspection necessary in an actor on the public stage. When left England in 1809 after his only leave there, the great Wilberforce remarked of him that he had been ‘greatly struck with finding, how greatly he had advanced in ye esteem and favour of ye great men both in church and state, tho’ he had never before been accustomed to such heights of society’.
In New South Wales Marsden’s public troubles began in January 1817 with the publication of a letter in the Sydney Gazette under the name ‘Philo Free’. As Marsden suspected, it was written by J. T. Campbell, Macquarie’s Secretary, a talented and energetic administrator who was also the Governor’s advisor and friend. Campbell was a man of the world, an Ulsterman possessed of a subtle and sarcastic wit, not overly concerned with religious morals and one who delighted to poke fun at evangelical pomposity. In the Philo Free letter he compared the missionaries of the South Sea islands with Jesuits, who, while their zeal to convert ‘never slumbered’, ‘soon superadded thereto the lust of wealth, power and dominion’. The LMS and CMS missionaries were of course ‘of somewhat more humble Cast’ than the Jesuits; they were traders in pigs, pine trees and New Zealand flax, not to mention ‘ardent spirits’. Campbell could not resist attacking Marsden in the course of his satire. He wrote, ‘The active exertions of him, who is the worthy head of these sectarian Visionaries or Missionaries…in propagating the Gospel by such means, and the transmission from time to time of Muskets and Cutlasses, will no doubt redound much and highly to the honour of the Christian Mahomet, and of the Church so planted, whilst the pecuniary advantage of the chosen few will not be altogether overlooked’. These were the men who had set up a Philanthropic Society for Pacific Islanders in New South Wales so as to forward their designs and absorb the subscriptions of decent New South Welshmen. But, said Philo Free: ‘I do not wish to see men, in any garb or under any mask or pretence whatever, arrogate to themselves such consequential airs of importance for acts of public beneficence which they have never exhibited in their private lives, and still less (if possible) in their public Characters, towards the abject natives of New South Wales’. And then he concluded with a sour jibe at Marsden’s fame among evangelicals in England.
Marsden, who had suspected it all along, was at this point convinced that Campbell and his powerful allies wished to ‘annihilate’ the mission in New Zealand
One of Campbell’s greatest friends was the Governor himself. Marsden had never found their alliance easy to bear, agreeing so well in their attitudes to him as they were. From the beginning of his government in 1810 Macquarie had taken quite wrong advice from Col. Joseph Foveaux that the Principal Chaplain was a turbulent and rebellious subject. He had also absorbed the message from Foveaux that the New Zealanders were much less worth civilizing–let alone evangelising–than the docile aboriginals of New Holland. They were nothing but a treacherous race of cannibals.
Macquarie needed little further convincing of Marsden’s demerits when, very early on under his government, the clergyman refused to work with two ex- convicts on a turnpike trust, on grounds that this would derogate from the reputation of the clergy and the church. After that episode Macquarie was slow to appoint him Marsden as a magistrate; he never trusted him to order the church in any way independently of his own wishes; he thought of him as a vulgar methodist of ‘low origins’; and he had made no attempt to call Campbell to heal in 1815 when an anonymous amusing account of Marsden’s failing to set up a public library appeared in the Sydney Gazette. Since much had been made of Marsden’s taking books back to Botany Bay when he was in England, this was deeply embarrassing to him as an evangelical hero in his homeland. So the Philo Free letter was the last straw for Marsden. He pursued Campbell for libel and in doing so found many friends among those already embroiled with Macquarie.
There followed a series of controversies, legal cases, and ultimately a Commission of Enquiry on the Colony sent over from Westminster and 1819, which reported back in 1822-23. The Marsden-Campbell-Macquarie dispute ramified, connecting with some already in train and others about to commence. The disputants included legal officers, military and civil officers, rich landowners and merchants, and individuals of all kinds down through convicts who had served their time or were effectively free. Arrayed against Marsden, for instance, were the Governor and his courtiers, the leaders of those arguing for political rights for ‘emancipists’ and a handful of free but obscure non- conformist schoolmasters and preachers. Against Macquarie were to be found (when they were not his courtiers) the legal and military officers and the greater landholders. Among his opponents too were three free men of the lower orders who were flogged–as free men never should be–on the Governor’s personal command.
The passion that fuelled the polemics was amour propre, a special kind of self-regard. It was that disposition famously remarked upon by Jean Jacques Rousseau as that of living ‘outside’ of oneself, concerned above all to maintain or augment one’s reputation in the eyes of others, and (to put it negatively) driven not by guilt at some privately-recognised sin or other defect, but by the wish to avoid public mortification and shame. The language of degradation, disgrace, insult, contempt and disrespect was as much on everyone’s lips as that of virtue, character, authority, status and professional pride.
This language of amour propre was probably so evident because the Colony was an autocracy ruled by a single man. The Governor’s commands were binding, although to an uncertain extent they were shaped and modified by English common law, social convention, and the independent operations of the judiciary, church, magistracy and military. In these conditions of uncertainty the (often multiple) duties of the directive minority were often (like Marsden’s) unclear and contradictory. Where there was no appeal to a political constitution, men’s ‘characters’ were the coinage of debate.
To assert or defend one’s character was, in the first place, often simply to insist upon one’s role or status in society: one acted in the ‘character’ of a Governor, clergyman, judge, magistrate, military officer, gentleman or head of household. Marsden therefore is to be found insisting on the importance of the roles he filled in society. It did not matter that people should impugn his private beliefs in matters of religion; but it did matter if his roles of clergyman and magistrate were undermined. Good government and good order demanded that those offices and their duties of action be respected. That the Governor and his Secretary should mock them and allow them to be ‘degraded’ was as politically dangerous as it was sinful and criminal. Marsden’s friends, Judge Advocate Ellis Bent and Judge Jeffrey Bent, argued just the same when they found their professional expertise and the constitutional independence of the judiciary overridden by Macquarie. Their correspondence on their disagreements is an education in the ethics and rhetoric of amour propre. The correspondence between Colonel William Molle, Deputy Governor and field commander of the 46th Regiment, and Macquarie is too. Molle defended the code of honour and honesty that bound his regiment against Macquarie’s peremptory demands that they mix socially with ‘emancipists’—men (the 46th thought) indelibly stained by their previous crimes. Macquarie for his part insisted on his place as head of society as well as government in New South Wales. His table should set the standards as his word pronounced the law.
But to defend one’s character was not just to defend the role one played in society. A second way to speak of a man’s ‘public character’ (or ‘private character’ if one was speaking of his role in his family and among friends) was to speak of the quality of the discharge of the duties that fell upon him. Unwearied diligence was the greatest virtue in an office holder; negligence the greatest vice. Marsden and Macquarie embodied this understanding. Here is Macquarie writing home on the Bent brothers:
I am perfectly unconscious of having ever committed any Public or Private Act, during the time I have had the honour to administer the affairs of this Government, that I have any cause to be ashamed of or even sorry for. My whole time and attention have exclusively been devoted to my Public Duty, which I can safely venture to affirm I have discharged with the Zeal, honour, and incorruptible integrity. If I have erred in any thing, it is to be attributed alone to an error in judgment. My Pride and ambition had ever been to improve and promote the welfare of the Colony, and to ameliorate the Condition of its inhabitants…. I Consequently feel not a little mortified, after devoting my whole attention exclusively to those objects for the last Five Years and a half, that I should experience not only pointed Counteraction to my Public Measures, but also meet with gross insults from those who ought to be the first support of my authority, which these two Gentleman treat not only with marked Contempt, but have set at defiance.
Marsden, the Bents and Colonel Molle all wrote home to their superiors in exactly the same terms when they complained about Macquarie. They protested their long devotion to their respective duties and complained about the insults and degradation they had suffered at the hand of one who not only did not respect their professions, but hindered the discharge of the duties that their professions demanded of them. Even Commissioner J.T. Bigge suffered on two occasions from Macquarie’s outrage at insinuations against his character when he suggested that the Governor should act in ways he was not inclined to.
Marsden was clearly in no position to attack Macquarie in terms of a third and final aspect of ‘character’ that featured in polemic during these times of storm and stress: i.e. character as the integrity of one’s ‘public’ and ‘private’ character with the (so-to-say) secret inner individual. He could not attack the inner Macquarie, the opaque self who inhabited his particulars office and whose persona embodied the duties attached to it. Macquarie’s motives (Macquarie held, and others had to profess) were unimpeachable. The most Marsden ever argued was that the Governor, virtuous and well-meaning as he was, had pursued wrong-headed and ruinous public policies, especially in respect of treating emancipists as if they were as respectable as free men, of his not providing housing for single female convicts and instead sending them upon the town, of his lax supervision of hospitals and so on. It would have been dangerous for him to go further: charges of libel, perhaps treason, would await him if he were not circumspect. These charges were certainly visited on the unfortunate Surgeon, Dr William Bland, when he satirized Macquarie in 1818. Even to disagree in private with Macquarie’s policies, let alone attack them in public, earned the Governor’s ire: it was disobedience, insulting insubordination. It was mortifying to his noble feelings, etc.
But Macquarie, unlike his inferiors, was not himself constrained by any superior power or by any scruple to refrain from attacking the integrity of his opponents. He was the superior power, and every atom of his being informed him of his duty to destroy anyone who questioned the wisdom of his proceedings. It was quite in character that over a period of more than five years he was to use every argument he could to destroy Marsden’s reputation: he was a turbulent and ambitious priest, the leader of a faction of the discontented rich, a vulgar enthusiastic methodist of low origins, a vindictive (and therefore unchristian) litigant, a lover of New Zealanders more than the natives of New Hollander. He was a man of too many worldly interests for a priest. He should concentrate on his calling. He was above all, a hypocrite—he lacked, that is, integrity–which was why he did not appear to others to be these things. He was a dark and furtive operator, much, much worse than he seemed. Marsden said, for instance, that his heart bled for the sick and dying in the ill-equipped Parramatta hospital; he wept tears at the deathbeds of unrepentant prostitutes; he thought the gaol at Parramatta was a disgrace to those who maintained it; he thought a multitude of things were badly organized to the detriment of the lower orders. How was it then, Macquarie demanded, that he always seemed to be the happiest man in the Colony: always busy, always cheerful, always polite to those he met? Opposing too, the most important of his Governor’s measures, he was almost always civil to the man who promoted them. He must be a hypocrite: the epitome of a man without integrity of character.
Macquarie sought to drive the point home. When Marsden tried to resign the magistracy Macquarie brutally announced not his retirement but his dismissal in the Sydney Gazette; when Marsden tried to take a second leave to return to England, Macquarie claimed he had been on leave many times already; when in 1820-21 Marsden endorsed others’ criticisms of Macquarie’s policies to Commissioner Bigge as to his allowing the cruel punishment of reconvicted convicts, the Governor produced–each of them for the first time–the claims that Marsden was an unnecessarily cruel magistrate, that he traded in spirituous liquors, and that he neglected his duties as a priest to attend to his interests in merchandise and on his many farms. Others, opposing Marsden for other reasons, took up the same line. Marsden thought they were all lying, said so as far as it was wise, and was believed in almost every respect by Bigge. If, for instance, he had been guilty of these things, why had Macquarie not dismissed him in the many years he had him at his mercy? It would have been no less than he deserved if his Governor were right about him.
So much for the politics and language of amour propre and its issuing in arguments of a kind Jeremy Bentham once called ‘personalities vituperative’ and ‘personalities laudative’. But Marsden also understood the situation in Biblical, spiritual, as well as worldly terms. One intersection of the sacred and secular was obvious. Satan’s followers were widely thought to be ‘principalities and powers’: for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, St Paul had said, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’. New South Wales had been prefigured in the worst days of Jerusalem: [Jerusalem] obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are ravening wolves… Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. The Bible also told him what to make of calumniators or libellers: ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it’.
Marsden understood his own sufferings in this same context, and wrote to the Secretary of the CMs that he would ‘easily conceive that I have had many hard struggles, when you consider that I have had the same spirit to oppose for the last seven years that dictated the letter Philo Free’. And he told a friend:
I have had harder to contend than ever lately and never passed thro’ so much anxiety….I must prevail in the end though the struggle is very painful….Unconverted men in power roar like lions at the sound of the Gospel. They shew their enmity in every possible way. Every King of Babylon has his Golden Image and whosoever will not fall down & worship his god must be cast into the burning fiery furnace. … Fightings without and fears within attend me. They that live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecutions –This will hold good in all countries and particularly in this.
So much for those in high places who attempted to insult, degrade and disgrace him; and so much for his wounded feelings.
Marsden—to conclude his view of Satan’s power–saw things in the larger context of a cosmic war that would end only with the end of time. It was one of all christians against Him and His allies, whether they hated christianity — ‘unjust and wicked men: without faith’—or whether they were ‘lukewarm’ christians who did not come to the aid of those oppressed by the ‘mighty’. It was a battle for the souls of all humans being in earth, fought wherever a christian happened to be. As he was throughout the world, the Devil, ‘the mystery of iniquity’, was at work in the Colony, and would ultimately be defeated. As to his own greatest enemies in New South Wales he as good as told the CMS that Campbell was in league with the Devil and that Macquarie at the very least implicated with him in a war against Christ, his church, his missions, all good men, and all believers. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work:….he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
I hope it will now be possible, more easily than it would have been otherwise, to grasp how Marsden and the missionaries acted in New Zealand. Marsden’s views, for instance, were informed, just as they were in New South Wales, by his understandings of the workings of amour propre and of Satan— who in New Zealand was usually called the ‘Prince of Darkness’.
His bifurcated attitude to the New Zealanders demonstrates this.
He understood them in one way (for both good and evil) as governed by amour propre. Their courage in battle, their love of display, their pride in public oratory all displayed it. They fought to avenge insults and injustices among themselves. They would not be treated as mere savages by visiting shipping; they would retaliate according to the most ancient laws of mankind when they were made fun of, defrauded, whipped, or kidnapped. When most of the complement of the brigantine the Boyd was killed and eaten in 1810, Marsden began a career of defending all South Sea Islanders on grounds that no sane and honourable man would bear the wrongs visited on them by dissolute, dishonest and cruel Europeans—least of all the New Zealanders. They would not be insulted and suffer injustice without retaliation. They were honourable, too, in their commercial dealings; and when faced with honest and peaceful disagreement either on particular issues or on general propositions of the most abstract kind they would work their way through them with great intellectual power and subtlety of judgment. And they would tenaciously pursue long-term goals and strategies that were in their interest. These were the elements in their character that made them a ‘noble race,’ prime candidates for civilisation, most promising of any uncivilised heathen race Marsden had heard of. He had no doubt that in time they would settle more firmly in their own places and devote themselves to agriculture and the ‘simple arts’ the missionaries would teach them. Their swords would be beaten into ploughshares and the voice of peace would be heard in the land. Their rangatira would become something like a landed gentry. The tangata, like the common people in New South Wales, would become farmers, artisans, and useful outdoor labourers and servants. There would be no more slavery and no more war. Their few unfortunate women (those who were like those of New South Wales) would no longer sell their bodies; they would, like virtuous women in New South Wales become wives in monogamous marriages and servants and useful workers. As to the dark side of human pride, the New Zealanders would shuck off its evil effects: their outbursts of wounded pride, their susceptibility to insult and their murderous rages. They would no longer practice cannibalism, that ultimate act in exaltation of the victor and degradation of an enemy.
But Marsden also understood the New Zealanders as governed by the Prince of Darkness, and so, besides civilising them by teaching them agriculture and ‘simple arts’, he and the missionaries were determined to evangelise them.
I knew that they were cannibals – that they were a savage race, full of superstition, and wholly under the power and influence of the Prince of Darkness – and that there was only one remedy which could effectually free them from their cruel bondage and misery, and that was the Gospel of the crucified Saviour. But as St Paul observes, “How could they believe on Him of whom they had not heard, and how could they hear without a preacher, and how could they preach except they be sent?”
While they were in bondage to Satan they would continue adhere to the old beliefs and customs: their fear of atua and taniwha, their terror at the prospect of death and fear of the dying, their beliefs in witchcraft and mākutu, their cutting themselves with shells and stones to express great grief at parting, their making of human blood sacrifices, their taking multiple wives, their disrespect for the private property of the missionaries, their habit of sending war-parties to despoil the settlements of those who had been visited by misfortune, their murdering of slaves and enemies without compunction. He knew with John Milton that Sin and Death were the faithful progeny of Satan and ruled for and with him in lands of heathen darkness. Unlike the infidel convicts and their sinful masters in New South Wales the New Zealanders were rather to be pitied than judged; and the light of the gospel must surely be poured upon them. The point was to free the heathen from their bondage: ‘Nothing but the Gospel of our blessed God can effectually provide a remedy for their spiritual and temporal bondage’. It is worth noting in passing at this point that Marsden thought the New Zealanders were very much more likely to be civilised and converted than the aboriginals of New Holland not because they were any the less under the domination of the dark powers but simply because they were more settled on the land and more socially connected, each with one another, and with foreigners. Their connections, it may also be noted, were those of ownership, and pride, and place in the groups in which they lived. Amour propre was a necessary condition for salvation.
Those who were sent to preach to them were the CMS missionaries living in original settlement of 1814 in Rangihua Bay and the second (established in 1819) at Kerikeri. And it is the relationships among them and with Marsden that I will conclude this paper. The politics of amour propre was as evident among them as it was among the directive minority in New South Wales, complicated though by their capacity as christians to despise settled hierarchy when they felt they should act on the demands of their individual christian consciences. They lived both outside themselves and for their reputations among their brethren, but also inside themselves in an internal dialogue with a God whose command must be lovingly willed by them. To put it negatively, they were driven by guilt as well as shame.
This potentially incoherent understanding of themselves which they shared with Marsden was a potent source of disunity when combined with the difficult conditions of scarcity and recurrent fear of the New Zealanders in which the missionaries lived. From the beginning in 1810 when they set sail for the antipodes, William Hall the carpenter and John Hall the twine spinner were too proud to act as the servants of Marsden and Rev.William Cartwright en voyage; and in New South Wales until 1814 they were pleased to act independently of Marsden, refusing for instance to learn the New Zealander’s language when he ordered them—then begged them, then bribed them to. When they were sent with Kendall to the Bay they would not recognise Kendall’s claims to lead them by virtue of his being a school teacher, a J.P, and demonstrably more eloquent than them. They held that the work of a man’s hands was as valuable as the moody seeming-idleness of one who engaged in learning the language and teaching his native children. Marsden, who could appoint none of them leader, much as he would have wished to, was able to call them to some kind of order only with the most brutal of ultimatums: co-operate or leave. They stayed, but did not co-operate for long. They were already divided by private interests in trading with the New Zealanders and the temptation to trade especially in muskets and powder, fed by the New Zealander’s lust for war and the increasing numbers of whalers and traders visiting the Bay and willing to trade them for pork and potatoes.
When the Rev. John Butler arrived with a new group of settlers for Kerikeri, though (unlike Kendall) he was authorised by London and by Marsden to lead the mission, he could not establish any authority either over the artisans and the hired hands in the settlements. Marsden wrote to the CMS lamenting the operations of the politics of amour propre among the settlements: ‘All the difficulties in New Zealand that I have met with have been in governing the Europeans. They will not do what is right. They will not live in unity and brotherly love. The love of money, the thirst for pre-eminence, the want of industry and zeal for the good of the heathens, have greatly militated against the success of the mission’. He tried to persuade the missionaries of the importance of public (and cosmic) relations–revealing a side to the politics of amour propre which none of them seemed to grasp:
You are all placed in the most important and honourable station in the world; in the centre of the enemy’s camp. The eyes of the angels and good men are turned towards you. Satan trembles for his kingdom. Its foundations will be shaken as certain as the Rams horns wore down the walls of Jericho; but men, you must be united, you must be of one heart and of one mind.
Marsden also admonished Butler to the same effect , but in doing so, showed that he knew what the politics of amour propre was up against in a savage land. He urged him to exert the authority he derived from the CMS:
You have been accustomed to obey, and be obeyed. Perhaps some of your colleagues have neither been accustomed to obey nor to be obeyed but have these lessons to learn. You are now at the head of the settlement and have no superior.
But Butler should not expect too much; and in saying why, Marsden put his finger on the particular problem with missionaries: their antinomianism; their tendency to despise all law and thus outward status and authority. The christian consciences of Butler’s brethren, Marsden told him, would make things hard. Or was it the christian consciences? Human nature, Marsden wrote, always despised authority, and ‘Wherever a Moses is planted there will always be a Korah or a Dathan or an Abiram, to say to him you take too much upon you seeing all the congregation is holy every one of them; wherefore lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord’. Butler and Marsden had to deal with inner conviction and lack of inner guilt among those under Butler as well as their worldly pride and lack of shame. But whether that inner conviction was from God was another thing.
There is no time to deal with the workings out of this situation, at once deeply felt by all concerned and expressed in the rhetoric of their exchanges. Butler resigned his business and administrative control of the mission because the others would not obey, and then the plot unfolded. His pride was further injured by Marsden’s insistence that he live too frugally and not trade in muskets; he was wracked with guilt at trading himself even though he knew he had no alternatives and did it only for the benefit of the mission; he turned against Marsden, allied with his enemies in New South Wales, and accused him of incompetence and hypocrisy. Marsden and London concluded that the good reputation of the mission demanded that he be removed. Marsden dismissed him on a probably unfair charge of drunkenness.
Kendall’s case had much more potential to damage the mission because sea captains, fishermen and sailors were great spreaders of gossip and rumour. By 1817 he was showing the strain. He was thrown into disarray by his wife’s adultery with their convict servant; he was scorned by the artisan missionaries who would not help sustain his school; he was seduced by the language and fleshly culture and religion of the proud New Zealanders. In 1820 he took Hongi and Waikato on an unauthorized visit to England. He was ordained there, and could now compete with Butler for spiritual authority. He worked on his New Zealand grammar and vocabulary, thus successfully asserting his greater knowledge of the language than any other European. Though reprimanded by the CMS and forbidden to trade in muskets, he pursued his trade interests in England and encouraged Hongi to pursue his both there and in New South Wales as they returned to the Bay. Back in the Bay he caused havoc by encouraging Hongi to despise the missions and missionaries as hindrances to trade; the Nga Pui invasions southwards escalated with the number of firearms they commanded; this caused fear and dismay among the Brethren and damaged the reputation of the New Zealanders abroad. And then there was Kendall’s adultery with Tungaroa. Among men of the world in England or New South Wales this would have been no crime–legal or moral–and of course they had no concept of sin. But among missionaries, fornication, let alone adultery, was unbearable. Butler, earlier seeking to degrade and mortify Marsden, let the CMS know that he ‘firmly’ believed that ‘all the single men that had been employed by Mr. Marsden have committed fornication among the heathen!!’ And Marsden lamented its occurrence among the missionaries he had known in New Zealand and the Society Island because of the harm it did the missions. But there was something else. It represented the temptation and the sin that the New Zealanders held out to the missionaries. One of them wrote to Kendall:
I would tremble for myself when I acknowledge that I am capable of falling into the same sins which you have been long unblushingly committing this very hour or into any other abomination which has been committed from the creation until now, if left by my God and delivered unto Satan. If I have been kept since I have so sojourned in this land of darkness and sin, it is alone by the Almighty power of my God….
Satan, the God of this world, the father of pride, ‘the deceiver’ would lead men to Hell. Yet there was always the question of the reputation of the mission to consider:
You have acted a derogatory to God’s honour, unbecoming your high vocation and the christian character and in a way likely to bring down the vengeance of the Most High upon the cause you are engaged in and to bring misery and ruin upon yourself and family. Your conduct is calculated to make angels and christian men weep and devils and New Zealanders to rejoice.
Kendall did not much see that last point. He wavered between feeling guilt and pain, and insisting that even the worst of men, granted God’s saving grace, could do his will. He scarcely felt the shame, disgrace and derision he brought on the heads of the CMS and it mission. He had to go.
Main printed sources consulted:
Barton, R.J, ed. Earliest New Zealand: The Journals and Correspondence of the Rev. John Butler. Masterton, 1927.
Binney, Judith. Legacy of Guilt: A Life of Thomas Kendall. 2 ed. Wellington, NZ: Bridget Williams Books, 2005.
—, ed. Te Kerikeri 1770-1850. The Meeting Pool. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books for the Department of Conservation, 2007.
Elder, John Rawson. Marsden’s Lieutenants. Dunedin: Coulls Somerville Wilkie, 1934. Elder, John Rawson (ed). The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden 1765-1838. Senior
Chaplain in the Colony of New South Wales and Superintendent of the Mission of the Church Missionary Society in New Zealand. Dunedin: Coulls Somerville Wilkie, Ltd. and A.H.Reed for the Otago University Council, 1932.
Historical Records of Australia. Series 1. Sydney: Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, Government Printer, 1914-1925.
Ritchie, John, ed. The Evidence to the Bigge Reports. New South Wales under Governor Macquarie. 2 vols. Melbourne: Heinemann, 1971.